January 16, 2010

Ramble: 'Growing Up'

When I became a man, I put away childish things...
So I got hired for my first actual teaching position last week, teaching at a nice school about 45 minutes away from where I live. Kids are great, school is top-notch, I'm going to get A LOT of help with my curriculum planning-which means less actual work for me than normal-and there's even attractive, young lady teachers! Plus, in 5 months I'm going to make more than I've ever made in a single year. Very exciting times for me, right?
Well, kinda wrong. As much as I hate being a sub, and HATE being poor, it's still fun to be able to go home and have NOTHING to do aside from play Call Of Duty, ramble on Coach Huey, read, etc. You don't get to live that way very long in your life. The "post-college" years of life are a pretty awesome time for me so far, but I know that they're not only limited, they're rapidly dwindling for me. It's a funny time, in my opinion, because it's the end of some parts of my life and the beginning of others, with pros and cons to each. I'm no longer allowed to be a poverty-struck slacker, I need to take up the responsibilities that come with employment, 'age', and supposed maturity.
But what is it to 'grow up'? I've been saying for years that I don't feel much different than when I was 14 (25 now). I still laugh at ridiculously stupid things, have a sense of humor that-if anything-is getting more unique, watch South Park with more regularity now than 8th grade, and will occasionally forget to bathe for a day or three. I pay income taxes, cook my own meals, and sometimes even fix stuff around the house. I'm put in charge of the education and growth of teenagers in a variety of capacities, and yet most of my immediate friends are recreational (whatever the hell that means) pot heads.

What I think...
I think that growing up isn't just getting older, it's realizing that there's pleasure in taking on things that are difficult or unwelcome. It's reaching a point where you aren't the most important in your world (Ignoring the typical 'erotic' or 'parental' love that springs to mind for most people) and doing things for other people because that's what needs to be done. It's taking the things that used to dominate your time and your world and beginning to moderate them and phase them out of your life at times.
I'm by no means an expert on all this. This is something that's been on my mind a lot recently, but really has been brought to the forefront with recent events. I read a book last week called Do Hard Things, which I'll definitely post about in full at another date, which is geared towards inspiring teenagers to reject the way that society treats them and seek out responsibility, and am currently reading another called Man's Search For Meaning, written by a psychologist Holocaust survivor about his experiences and what he has drawn from them. I got a job, a real job, the first of my CAREER. I've had a series of conversations covering a wide range of stuff with a wide range of people, most having something to do with me and my life. All in all, I've been stewing on being a grown up a lot.

Good gets better...
I think there is no best point in life, if you're doing it right. Every phase of my life just keeps getting better, and better, and better. That isn't to say it gets easier, because that's absolutely not the case. In fact, life has gotten categorically harder, it's almost ridiculous at times. But in overcoming greater obstacles and living up to greater responsibilities, there's greater satisfaction and greater contentment. As I enter this next 'phase' of my life, I'm friggin' excited. I'm ecstatic. I'm eager like you wouldn't believe. I'm all these things because I know that it's going to be the best time of my life, until I enter the phase after that (I'm presuming marriage, but who knows what order things will happen in), which will only be better. So, let the good times roll, but let's also appreciate and enjoy that the easy times have long since sailed.

January 13, 2010

4-3 ‘Flex’ Blitzes: What I’d Do

As promised, I’m going to show a few blitzes that I would run if this scheme were my own. They’re not perfect, but looking at the diagrams, I think that they have some good potential. One thing that I like is the ease with which the Flex position can move two gaps across the line due to his upright position, as well as give a hard step upfield and turn and run to his drop. I’m looking forward to doing something similar this year with my Will backer, who’s just dynamite on the blitz.

Starting Simple: A Fairly Typical Fire Zone

This is a pretty simple concept that you’ll see repeated in pretty much every defensive playbook that features the traditional 3 deep, 3 under coverage. Ordinarily I’d run this with the Mac blitzing and the Will dropping to the middle hole, but with this scheme’s calling for the Mac to play at 7 yards, I find it more practical to have the Will take the blitz. The dropping Rush has the SCF, Seam Curl Flat, drop to the weakside. In order to keep terminology consistent within our scheme, we call it an Area-2 Vertical-2 drop. In high school I never played in a scheme with real zone drops, only very tight and aggressive pattern read quarters. Once I went to college, we had actual zone drops, but labeled them Area-1 (Rather than Curl/Flat), Area-2 (Hook/Curl), Area-3 (middle hole). I like that system because it, in my mind, it gets the kids dropping towards receivers, rather arbitrary spots on the field. We tell someone with an Area-1 drop that their landmark is 8 yards deep and towards the top of the numbers initially, but as soon as they read 3 or 5 step they’re responsible for getting underneath the #1 receiver while hopefully leveraging anything short and underneath.

Anyways, the Mac backer takes the middle hole and the S/S drops down to get the SCF/A-2 V-2 drop vacated by the blitzing Sam. Corners are loose man to deep 1/3 drops and the FS takes the centerfield.

Important details to remember:

· The Nose has to continue his slant’s momentum outside, lest the QB break contain while avoiding the rush from his left.

· Flex needs to be sure to start laterally, rather than attacking upfield and trying to work to his gap.

· A fun change-up can have the Will creep up and show his blitz and the Flex goes after him.

Taking It Up A Notch: Sneaky Flexing Ninjas

This is a good run stunt and effective pass stunt for teams that don’t slide protect as much. The theory behind it is that the Nose will occupy the Center and Guard on his slant, while the Rush takes the Tackle upfield, thereby leaving Will and Mac free to blitz on either side of the guard. What I like about it is that the Flex can hopefully occupy the Guard (for at least a moment) in front of him by giving a hard upfield step before dropping to the hole, thereby freeing the Nose to get a 1v1 pass rush, something rare and exciting for him.

One of the problems with the design is that the Mac has to creep forward at least a few yards in order to have any chance at all of reaching the QB before the ball’s out. This makes him obvious that he’s doing something fishy, unless you’re doing it all the time, which brings up other issues. Since the scheme is predicated on execution, having an LB sugaring around and potentially being out of position is a big deal, especially when the run defense is dependent on that guy’s presence.

Edge Pressure: Not For The Weak At Heart

This one would be for good use against teams that run a lot of zone read. It’s essentially a scrape-exchange stunt on both sides of the defense, with the Sam and Will coming off the edge to play the handoff on the traditional zone read while Mac is protected by the DL and flowing to the QB, wherever the heck he is. The presence of the Flex gives you no seams against the run, but offers a good middle coverage should he read pass.

One of the problems is that the Mac is responsible for the weakside SCF/A-2 V-2. He needs to read pass quickly and get his keister out to his responsibility ASAP, but that isn’t always easy against spread teams. Best case scenario is he gets there in time for a breakup hit or maybe a pick on a great play, but the more than likely scenario is that he’s just too late. This means the corner will probably have to play tighter coverage than we’d like, but hey, there’s no perfect blitz, or everyone would do it.


I like this scheme, it interests me a whole lot and I think I’ve shown that with creativity and the right personnel, it can be a confusing and complicated defense to dissect. I don’t know that I’ll be incorporating much of it into what I do in the future, but if I ever have a chance to maybe work an ILB at DL and develop a kid for the spot, maybe. Who knows what the future holds.

January 6, 2010

The 4-3 'Flex' Defense: The Basics As I Know Them

Kinda The Norm, But Not Really...
My former HS head coach was a very practical, pragmatic guy and a pretty damn good coach. I love the guy, but he wasn't for everyone. As I've said before, his defense was very execution and technique oriented, without a ton of frills and doo-dads. I called the same basic call "Eagle, 87" for at least 90% of my defensive plays. We played the hell out of that Under front, Quarters coverage, with great results at times. When he left to become the header at the local CC, he found himself in the interesting situation that he was inheriting a DC who was very good, but ran a scheme that was different from his. Recognizing that this was an opportunity where he needed to embrace the issue, he kept the DC and is the head coach slash DB coach. Theirs is a funny relationship: the DC has control over most things, but the HC still gets to pull the HC card when he feels something is unsound. They make it work and have routinely fielded a very exceptional defense that's unique and personnel flexible, in my mind.

Alignments And Responsibilities
Their "Down 3" align in fairly typical alignments for typical 4-3 players of their positions. Their Rush End is outside shade the OT to the weakside, the Nose goes to inside shade of the OG to the weakside, and the End lines up outside shade the OT to the strong side. The interesting player is their "Flex" spot, who can really do a lot of things for them. Some years he's a souped-up linebacker and hits his fit, usually outside shade of the OG, on a roll. Others, he's a true-blue defensive lineman and is just playing out of a two-point stance slightly off the ball. They fit the spot to the player and his ability, which I absolutely agree with philosophically. This last season and the coming season their Flex has been a 5'11 235lb MONSTER of an athletic specimen from a local team. He plays it both ways because he can.
Their linebackers are an interesting mix of body types and skill sets. Generally their Sam is a strong-safety type because they see lots and lots of 20 personnel offenses, so they usually elect to go with a strong, athletic runner over most teams prototypical Strong Outside Linebackers. Their Will plays with his heels at 4.5 to 5 yards, responsible for B gap weak, and reads the guard in front of him for his fit. He's your usual LB without any terribly restrictive needs other than the ability to take on an Iso from a FB in B gap. The Mac backer is the other fun player in their scheme, in my mind. He lines up at 7 yards deep and is expected to be playing down hill with a full head of steam on any kind of run play. Moreover, he's supposed to be a big, strong, physical kid who can run down plays. Their ideal is a guy in the 230+ range with at least 4.8 speed.
Because of their over front alignment (-1 NT, +3 Flex), the Mac backer is, in theory, not to be touched by an offensive blocker. The 3 tech flex protects him to the strong side, preventing teams from running isos directly at him, unless it's in A gap, where he will be expected to spank it and spank it hard. Likewise, anything run away from him will have a hard time getting to him thanks to the Will and Nose's presence. The Mac is supposed to make lots, and lots, and lots of tackles and hopefully bring the party when he does.
Secondary-wise, they run cover 3, cover 2, and quarters out of a fairly traditional 2-high coverage. Coach doesn't believe in doing a ton of different things, he'd rather be damn good at a few things and do those things anywhere and against anyone.

Why I Like It...
Being a coach in a 3-4 scheme, with the right personnel I could easily see us doing something very similar to it. In fact, the reason I even know what I know of the scheme is because I was close to installing a package with it this season. We had a linebacker that had spent the last two years as our 3 tech in the old scheme before moving the Mike this season. I thought it was a natural fit for us and would fit easily into our adjustments, but didn't feel comfortable pulling the trigger on the installation. I didn't feel it was unique enough from our 4-man front we stem to in order to warrant taking practice time to put it in. This isn't to say that it'll never happen or I don't actually think it's very useful, I just didn't feel good about it given what we were already dealing with.
It's flexible to your year-in, year-out personnel changes that you will deal with at the high school level, which is attractive to me. A very popular poster from Coachhuey is quoted as saying, "Play defense, not defenses" and I think this scheme allows you to play defense with different personnel without changing defenses, if that's clear. Some years you'll have a bumper crop of linebackers, in which case you can run this with a linebacker body at the Flex. Others, you'll have an influx of big boys and you can play a heavy at the Flex spot. You can change what you emphasize without changing what you practice and what you do.
If you're running with 3-4 type personnel, you can do a lot more blitzing and slanting and attacking with your front. If you're running 4-3 personnel, you can rely a lot more on execution and simplicity. You can line up in it from 3-3-5 personnel, 4-2-5 personnel, whatever. It's a very, very flexible scheme in my opinion and I think that contributes a great deal to anyone's defensive repertoire.
I plan on doing a write up in the next day or two on a few possible stunts and coverage combos I'd run, if it were my baby.

January 4, 2010

Website Plug: Habitforge

I'm a procrastinator, I'm forgetful and absent-minded, and I have a weird social anxiety thing that prevents me from embracing certain situations. Anyone that knows me in person would be surprised by the last one because I work very hard at counter-acting it as best I can (Read: Be loud, outgoing, and shameless), but I have a hard time with the first two.

While cruising lifehacker, I stumbled upon an article talking about a website called Habitforge. Basically, it's a series of email reminders to keep you on your game regarding whatever you tell it to. For someone like me who has a bad habit of forgetting things and putting off other stuff, I need nagging. Since I don't live with my mom anymore, getting a nagging email reminder really would help me take care of the stuff I need to be working on. I'm pretty stoked to give this a try and see how it works for me.

January 3, 2010

Why We Disguise

All This Disguising Is A Waste, Coach...
Barring specific gameplan alignments and/or adjustments, our secondary last season always had the goal of showing a 4-across alignment as often as possible, even though we ran cover 3 more than anything else. Our goal was corners at 7-8 yards and safeties at 8-9, with the attempt to show the same look every play.

One of our offensive guys who knows a lot of football asked me why we do it, since we end up rolling/creeping the safeties most of the time pre-snap to get to our alignments. His argument was that there was no point, since the offense will adjust within a quarter or two and then we might as well line up in our post-creep positions. Furthermore, he thought that by week 2 there would be no more secrets about our scheme and thought that we were wasting a lot of time working on things that weren't going to be a factor for most of the season.

To an extent, I agreed with him, although I differed on reasons at times. One of the reasons that I thought he was right was that it was wasted effort for most've the teams we played. We played a DW-esque pistol offense, triple option, 2 spread, 1 fly, 1 spin/DW, 2 pro-style, and 1 grab bag POS offense. Of those teams, only 3 had QBs where disguising was even relevant. The others just didn't have the knowledge or training to where it mattered if they knew what we were running or not. Hell, one of them threw a pick to one of our OLBs who literally moved four steps from his pre-snap alignment. He also had a point in that, by creeping, we get into the guessing game stuff with the offense where they dummy a cadence, check with the sideline, and then audible. But, we only played two offenses this year who even had the capability of making that adjustment.

So What You're Trying To Say Is...
I may seem like I'm arguing for his points or counter to the useful-ness of disguising and all the work that we put into making our scheme work with that goal, especially with regards to the idea that we only face a few offenses and QBs where it matters. But the big thing to point out is this: of those few offenses I'm talking about, the road to the league championship depends on beating two of them. Once we go down that road, then we're in the playoffs and playing better than average teams with better than average offenses and QBs. And once we're in that mode, disguising coverages will be important. No, not even important, CRUCIAL.

Playoffs around here are largely dominated by either spread teams or teams with somewhat more 'typical' offenses with QBs who are a cut above the type they typically get. For a team looking to get to a place where they are routinely in playoffs and going more than just one and done once they get there, such as we would like to be, the ability to disguise, manipulate, and confuse is crucial. Going back to my idea of simplicity vs complexity, until we get the athletes where we can declare "We're going to run cover 4, do something about it", we will need to disguise our coverage and creep and give false keys to the offense to lure QBs into missed passes and hopefully INTs.

I try to do my best to make decisions outside of the immediacy of NOW, at least regarding football stuff. I want to do things that are hard now, but are necessary to get to the next level because we cannot resign ourselves to any kind of short-sighted approach that doesn't take into account where we want to go as a program.

Next Year
We're going to keep a lot of our scheme the same, but with some small differences. For one, we're not going to play much traditional cover 3. We'll do a lot of 1/4, 1/4, 1/2, a lot of cover 2 and cover 4, some man to man, but our cover 3 will be mostly limited to the 3 deep 3 under 'fire zone' coverage that everyone does.

One new aspect that we're going to incorporate is that our DB coach is now going to be responsible for signalling to the DBs what pre-snap shell he wants them to show. Regardless of what the actual coverage is, our guys will line up in either 4-across, 2-high, or 1-high before moving to their actual alignments, or staying if the shell matches the coverage. It'll take a bit of work in the spring, but once that's taken care of it gives us more complexity (!) with a simple concept/application (!!).

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year's!!!

Been pretty busy the last few days with birthday stuff (I turned 25 on the 31st) and New Year's stuff, plus I've been on a date or two recently. Gotta love the off-season.

I wanted to leave you with a quote that I find particularly pertinent for the new year:

“The average is the borderline that keeps mere men in their place. Those who step over the line are heroes by the very act. Go.”
Henry Rollins

Let's not be content to be average or OK or good this year. Let's work our asses off diligently and eagerly and even heroically in order to do the best we can for the young men who entrust themselves to our leadership.